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Jesus Creed

I grew up in the gospel I sketched Monday, so when I contend that I
think it is right but not right enough, you can take it as friendly
fire from one who learned the hard way. Three experiences led me not
only to embrace a gospel like what we find in Luke but to see the
gospel I grew up with as too small to be fully biblical. Today I will sketch those changes.

First, as a college student I was privileged to spend two summers in
Austria with Greater Europe Mission. What I learned there changed my
entire worldview: the Church is bigger than the little church world in
which I had grown up. God’s work is about a worldwide community.

Second, as a seminary student I read a book that shook me to my core:
Ronald Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger.  I learned from
Sider, and I wish I could say I have practiced as much as I have
learned, that we are responsible for one another and especially to care
for the poor and needy in our world. Of all the places in the world
where care for the poor should be visible, the church should be at the
top of the list. (It wasn’t then, it hasn’t always been, but it is
getting better.)


 

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Third, from 1996 until now, as a result of teaching college students
and listening to both their sharp critique of the church and, at the
same time, listening to their lack of interest in attending local
churches, I learned something else: the gospel we are preaching is so
individualistic, so tied into getting the individual into heaven, that
the church has become an afterthought for many Christians today. The
current generation of young Christians is now living out, so I believe,
the gospel my generation preached to them – the individualistic gospel.
This gospel is deconstructing the church, making the church little more
than a Sunday morning option for those who want to follow Jesus. Do you
realize how far this church-as-option is from what we see in Luke’s
wiki-story of the Story? For Luke, the church isn’t an option; it’s the
main stage.
   
These experiences of mine, combined with reading the Bible’s Story,
have led me to a deep shift on how to talk about the gospel and what it
means to live out the gospel in our world today. I am learning that the
Bible, which is filled with blue parakeets to remind us, confronts you
and me with a gospel that redeems individuals in and through
communities and it redeems those individuals so they might contribute
to those communities. Any kind of gospel living that is not first and
foremost church-based is simply not the biblical gospel living. Notice
now how John calls people to respond to the gospel of the kingdom – he
calls them into a community that is unlike the culture surrounding
them. (I wonder what John would think of the gospel I sketched at the
beginning of this chapter.)

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